Like so many supposedly haunted places, the Hotel del Salto near Bogotá, Colombia, had grand and luxurious beginnings. Per History 101, it was built in 1923 by architect Carlos Arturo Tapias, who intended it to be his home, but soon opened it up to wealthy Colombian people as well as tourists. The hotel is situated at the edge of the impressive Salto del Tequendama (“The Fall of Tequendama”) waterfall. Historically, the area experienced tragedy and mass death caused by Spanish colonizers invading the land and overrunning the native Muisca people, subjecting them to rape, murder, and slavery. Some Muisca people avoided this fate by jumping into Salto del Tequendama, which they believed would cause them to transform into eagles and fly away. Legends suggested that the slain Muisca haunted their land for centuries after their deaths.
The Wall Street crash of 1929 and the worldwide Great Depression caused irreparable harm to the tourism industry that was keeping the Hotel del Salto in business. Furthermore, people once again started committing suicide by jumping off the cliffs into the waterfall; apparently “[m]any had to walk past the hotel to reach the jumping point, and the few guests that dared to stay there soon found themselves assisting in police investigations,” which could only harm the hotel’s reputation. As reported by Abandoned Spaces, in the 1950s engineers installed the El Charquito hydroelectric plant dam and the Muña reservoir to provide electricity. This damaged the ecosystem and polluted the waters.
From abandoned and haunted to restored and thriving
By the late 20th century, the dam and reservoir had destroyed the formerly lush and diverse environment surrounding the hotel, making the water so toxic that “no animal can survive for long in the anoxic waters of the Río Bogotá as it approaches and flows through the capital city,” per The City Paper. The hotel itself was in a state of decay due to its proximity to the water and the lack of upkeep. By the 1990s, the hotel closed and the rumors of hauntings grew more intense, according to History 101. When the curious, as well as squatters, explored the hotel, several reported seeing “the shadows of people who weren’t there” and hearing “quiet, distant conversations in a strange language.” There are also those who believe that the angry spirits of Muiscan people cursed the property due to their banishment from the land as well as the pollution that has destroyed much of the area’s ecosystem.
In 2011, per the Tenquama Falls Museum of Biodiversity and Culture website, the Ecological Farm Foundation of Porvenir arranged to buy the Hotel del Salto and transform it into a museum as part of their mission to recover the region and make it “free, clean, and surrounded by a healthy ecosystem.” The museum opened to the public in 2016 and Tequendama Falls has been declared a Colombian Site of Cultural Interest, while the museum is a Cultural Asset of Natural History.
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